Last month, a 27 year-old atheism activist and computer science graduate named Alber Saber was arrested in Cairo for doing what we do on Ask an Atheist every week. He disrespected and criticized religious beliefs and their political influence.
He posted the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video on his Egyptian Atheists Facebook page along with other posts and videos promoting atheism and criticizing Islam.
When word of this got out, an angry mob formed outside of Saber’s apartment, where he could hear them calling him an infidel and debating whether to storm in and murder him. Police were called…and they prompted arrested Saber. Not the angry mob.
Human rights lawyers say Saber was arrested without a prosecutor’s warrant and that he was beaten during interrogation. When tossed into a cell with other inmates, the guard announced that he had insulted the Muslim prophet Mohammad. He later sustained a wound on his neck in the cell.
He awaits trial on charges of “disdaining religion and ridiculing religious beliefs and rituals.”
To add insult to injury, a Muslim cleric named Abu Islam has also been charged with blasphemy for tearing up a Bible and threatening to pee on another one. Provided that he owns the Bibles, he has every right to do so. To illustrate how blasphemy laws always inevitably use a double standard in favor of majoritarian privilege, Abu Islam has not been arrested or beaten by police. He was set free on bail.
Whatever differences we have in the atheist community, we all unite to help Alber Saber. To the degree that we can be said to have “a people,” Saber is one of us. He’s in jail for doing exactly what we in the atheist visibility movement do every day. He’s in jail because he lacks the legal protects that we often take for granted.
If you have a radio show about atheism like ours, an atheist podcast, or a blog, or a book, or run a community organization for atheists, Alber Saber is one of us. We all have a stake in what happens to him. Any one of us could have been him. We need to speak up for him the way we’d want him to speak up for us if our places were reversed.
The Center for Inquiry has put up a page to draw attention to his case and produced and excellent video about victims of blasphemy laws, including Saber. Forward it to friends.
The American Humanist Association has created a page for contacting the State Department to demand they take action to help Alber Saber. Go there. Sign up.
Rebecca Watson has started a petition on Change.org. Sign it.
You can use this link to contact your representative in Congress. Let’s see a resolution condemning this assault on free expression go before the U.S. Congress. This international pressure and scrutiny has an impact on foreign governments, as it did when Uganda wanted to pass laws that would subject gays and lesbians to the death penalty.
We have a tremendous amount of talent, intelligence and skill in our diverse atheist/rationalist/skeptic/humanist movement. Let’s focus it and do some real good.